President Barack Obama pledged at the 2013 White House Tribal Nations Conference to visit Indian country sometime in 2014.
“Next year, I’ll make my first trip to Indian country as president,” Obama promised tribal leaders from 300 Indian nations gathered in Washington, D.C. at the Department of the Interior headquarters on November 13.
He made the pledge as part of his discussion of “being good stewards of Native homelands.”
Obama noted that he “saw the beauty of Crow Agency, Montana, when I was a candidate for this office” in 2008. It was during a campaign stop that year where the then-candidate was adopted as a member of the Crow Nation, and the president has proudly recalled that moment several times since.
Tribal citizens have long been asking the president to visit Indian country again to see with his own eyes the plight of many Indian nations to fully understand the relief that is needed.
The president of the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET), one of the largest regional Indian and tribally focused organizations in the country, told Indian Country Today Media Network in February that a visit from the President of the United States to a tribe or reservation would brightly shine a spotlight on the political, economic, and cultural realities facing tribes today.
“I would be so grateful if the president would show the initiative,” USET President Brian Patterson said during a February interview. “While the president so far has a report card of progress, we have yet to begin a dialogue on a variety of unmet and unidentified needs in Indian country. That is a crucial conversation we must have.”
White House advisor and Obama’s former Chief of Staff Pete Rouse told ICTMN in a 2010 interview that another tribal visit by Obama was a possibility, and several administration officials have visited reservations since 2008.
President Bill Clinton visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1999 during his second term and he again campaigned there in 2008 when his wife Hillary Clinton was running against Obama in 2008. It was on Pine Ridge that Clinton vowed to combat tribal poverty, and he committed federal dollars and policies to doing so.
Before his assassination, Robert F. Kennedy visited Pine Ridge in 1968 when running for president.
White House spokesman Shin Inouye said “more details will be released at a later date” regarding Obama’s planned visit to Indian country. “He looks forward to this trip,” Inouye added.